Pressures have been slowly building quietly and just below the sight of most Western observers which aim to topple Jordan’s monarchy of King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein. These pressures are being exerted by two competing forces, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran through assistance by al-Qaeda. Contrary to what has served as a basic understanding in much of the West, al-Qaeda is allied with Iran in the power struggles for dominance in the Muslim World, something that initially makes little sense for those who placed al-Qaeda firmly in the Sunni camp. Slowly but ever so surely the base of al-Qaeda has drifted from its Sunni origins into an orbit with Iran and a balance in membership between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. This is making for strange possibilities which would have originally been unthinkable and for many purists is still beyond imagination. The current challenges for dominance in the Muslim World is being played out between the two main forces, Iran with al-Qaeda against the Muslim Brotherhood, in two major theaters, Syria-Lebanon and on a quieter but just as serious confrontation in Jordan. So, what are the likely results and what will follow in the future?
Syria has been front and center in the coverage of the Middle East with its violent clash which is destroying the entire fabric of society sending thousands fleeing over the borders or being murdered in the streets. Often civilians who are not among the combatants often become the targets of both sides as the civil war spreads through every corner of the country. The real problem is trying to explain the sides of this conflict as it is more than simply the rebel anti-Assad forces against the Syrian army which has remained loyal to President Assad. There are also the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) and Hezballah also fighting and supporting Bashir Assad while the rebel forces are actually several groups who, even should Assad fall, would soon be at each other’s throats conflicting over who would take over in a new government. Some of the Rebel forces are backed by the Muslim Brotherhood while others by al-Qaeda with still others belonging to other interests be they Kurdish, Christian or even aligned with Turkey.
The real question will come down to what will Iran do should Bashir Assad be killed or effectively overturned from office? Will Iran send divisions of regular army with supporting armor and air power or will Iran simply accept the loss of both Syria and Lebanon and their over-ground link with the Mediterranean. Iran has made huge financial and logistical investments in Lebanon as well as in Syria and should Iran lose their surrogate, Assad, in Syria they will also lose their supply line to support Hezballah which controls Lebanon as an Iranian proxy. Already interests in Lebanon which oppose Iranian and Syrian influence are threatening Hezballah leader Hassan Nasrallah over his using weapons and arms supplied Hezballah against the Syrian people despite his original claims that they were to be solely used against the Zionist Entity, Israel. Iran currently enjoys an unhindered path through to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iran is known to be using transit across Iraq to start to impose their will on Jordan. This has come about as the Bedouins have been steadily radicalized and their youth are no longer supporting King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and his rule in Jordan. This poses an additional threat on Israel originating from Iran and is a result of the United States being unable to negotiate an agreement with the leadership of Iraq that would have allowed for continued American presence and prevented Iraq from entering into the Iranian orbit. This was facilitated by the appearance of a weakened United States no longer willing to lead in the Middle East. One thing which is becoming evident is that either through Iran and their surrogates or by the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jordanian monarchy is being undermined and is losing its authority and influence. It appears that the fall of Jordan to the more radical forces of Islam has already been written into the near future. That begs the question of what comes next.
The future will depend to a large extent on who will gain the upper hand in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It will also depend on in which direction the Muslim Brotherhood and through them, Egypt, take in making alliances in the near future. Currently the main forces are the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Iran with their influences in Iraq and gaining influence in Afghanistan. The wildcards are Turkey and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. Turkey will eventually need to ally with either Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood and give up on their aspirations to return to their place as the leadership of the Caliphate as they were during Ottoman rule. The one thing that should be feared beyond all else would be a pragmatic alliance which joined together the forces of Shiite Iran and Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. This may become an alliance of convenience as both find themselves in competition with the Saudi Wahhabis for preeminence in the Muslim world. If Iran should manage to retain their grip over Syria and Lebanon along with their new found influence over Iraq, then if they add Jordan to their sphere the Muslim Brotherhood may have little choice but to join forces with the apparently rising Shiite Iran and put the Sunni Shiite differences aside. This would not be the first time this divide has been overrode in the interest of Islam and would lead to a force that would be difficult to contain should they also become nuclear armed. Should Iran become the obvious preeminent power of the Muslim world, then the countries of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) would be facing an unavoidable threat from said force. Bahrain and Oman would likely be the initial targets, especially the islands claimed by them and also by Iran in the Gulf, be it called Arabian or Persian which the winner will decide, and particularly those in the Straits of Hormuz. Once the smaller nations have been neutered and footholds be made by Iran one can expect that Iran would then begin to pressure Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Iranians do not need to necessarily conquer all of Saudi Arabia to gain their desired goals; they only need take the predominantly Shiite northwest of Saudi Arabia which includes the vast oil fields. The Iran can simply wait for Saudi Arabia to fall as their financial goose that lays the golden oil eggs in Iranian hands. In time Iran would then gain the real gem held by Saudi Arabia, Mecca and Medina.
As for which result would be preferable for the Western nations of Europe, the United States and the rest, it is more of a pick your poison than a choice between a positive and a negative result. Neither Iran nor the Muslim Brotherhood is amiable to Western interests. Both see themselves as the eventual rulers of all of humanity and both are incompatible with the freedoms and liberties that the Judeo-Christian world has become accustomed to enjoying. This has already been made evident by the riots over what in the West is viewed as a guarantee under the ideals of free speech. As long as Islam insists on the validity of their notion that the world will be rendered under their rule and that this is inevitable and it is the responsibility of every Muslim to work toward this goal, there is likely to be conflict existing in numerous places where Islam and the rest of the world border each other. Fortunately, there are some within Islam who have begun what they see as a necessary reevaluation of the tenets of Islam which call for the use of force and rejection of all who are not Muslim. The struggle for the heart of Islam between those who desire an Islam which is able to coexist with the rest of the world and those who insist that Islam is the sole religion of truth and all else is a blaspheme is the struggle which should be encouraged in favor of the former over the latter. The struggle between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood is a disagreement without a difference as far as those outside of Islam are concerned. That is the truth that the powers in the West need to learn and understand. It unfortunately seems thus far to be beyond the capacity or understanding in much of the Western world’s leadership.
Beyond the Cusp